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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all. Question here. Im using concrete for a water fall in my new viv and Im told the concrete will make the water alkaline so i need to hose it down with vinegar for a few weeks.

I bought a ph test kit and noticed that my tap water AND bottled spring water has a ph of 8.0!! Very alkalotic. Ive never had a problem using spring water with tads, turtles, or fish tho. Is this water going to be ok in my viv or do i need to bring it downt o 7.0 for some reason??
 

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What kind and brand of test kit did you get? Like, was it a liquid-reagent kit with a dropper bottle that you add to a test tube of water, or was it a dip-stick style test? And what was the range of the test? If 8.0 is the top of the range that the kit tests, your water may be even higher than 8.0, for example.

Most importantly, what will be living/swimming/sitting/drinking the water? Frogs? Fish? What kind(s)?

pH is a measure of acidity and alkalinity. For many fish, a *precise* pH is not as important as a *stable* pH - for example, angelfish like a pretty neutral pH (7.0-ish). However, they'd do far better in water with a stable pH of 8.0 than water with a pH that swings from 6.5 to 8.5 constantly. So, in this example, if you had a stable but high pH of 8.0 and trying to lower it caused a back-and-forth fluctuation, you'd be better not to mess with it.

"Spring" water is a pretty ambiguous term. The question is, where is this "spring", how is the water collected, what is the environment like where it comes from? For an example, one "spring" water company bottles their water in the middle of a desert-y valley in California, just south of Owens lake (a super-high mineral content saltwater lake) near Death Valley. I wouldn't be surprised if you found their water to have a high pH. Of course, I'm sure there are other benefits to having a source in an area likely to have a high mineral content as far as -drinking- it is concerned, but it's not something I'd make my fish swim around in.

If you can get just plain old "drinking" water, especially from a water store that specifically runs reverse osmosis (RO) or RO and deionization filtration, that's the "best" stuff to start with, because you can then add whatever buffers you want - RO water is "just" water, nothing else, so you can make it into whatever water you want. Try testing the pH of drinking water and see what you come up with.

Stay away from "distilled" water - some distillation uses copper condensing plates, which can cause a bit of copper to be in the water that's collected. Not a big deal for most uses, but for freshwater invertebrates (crabs, shrimp, etc.), and other kinds of freshwater life, it could be a *fatal* problem.

Now, I'll warn you, I know next to *nothing* about frogs. Fish are my forte, not amphibians. But I generally like to recommend that folks take a bucket of tap water, use a product that removes chlorine *and* chloramine, aerate the bucket overnight, and test the pH in the morning. You'll possibly get a very different reading than you got straight out of the tap, and you may find it to be well within acceptable :) To give you an idea, in the summer, my tapwater comes out at 9.6. That's not a typo, I really mean nine-point-six! But after chlorine and chloramine are neutralized and the water's been aerated overnight, it's closer to 6.0. Yes, six-point-oh. That's a ludicrously HUGE change. NOTHING I keep can tolerate a pH of 9.6, but 6.0? Yeah. Totally.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I appreciate the response. the test kit is the dropper and vial type. the upper range is only 7.4 so i was questamating around 8. I will go buy some drinking water and try that, thanks!!
 

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Okay, cool, so all you definitely know so far is that the pH is 7.4 or above. You can get a "high range" pH test kit, if the cost is insignificant to you - worth having, even necessary, if you are going to have fish - or you can even take a sample of water to a local fish store for them to test. Even Petco or PetSmart should be willing to test your water for free. Make sure you tell them that all you need is the pH tested (unless/until you choose to test other parameters, of course :) ).

That the test kit only tells you up to 7.4 is an important tidbit - for one thing, maybe your water's only 7.5, which would be just fine for most (not all, surely, but most) fish commonly available. Or maybe your pH is like mine, 9.6 out of the tap! Fine for only a very select few fish from very specific locations, and which aren't generally available in the pet-fish industry.

If you have the chance to try aerating your tap water (run an airstone, filter, or small pump in a bucket of water) overnight after using a product to remove chlorine and chloramine, you might be pleasantly surprised :) I use Jungle brand Ammonia Chloramine Eliminator for ponds, but there are a ton of other options - Prime, AmQuell, etc., and not very costly. Using tapwater will be cheaper than buying RO water from a store, IF your water can be made acceptable easily :) Ah - the reason for using a product to neutralize chlorine and chloramine - aside from both of these chemicals being extremely harmful to fish, chloramine will artificially "boost" the pH. Neutralizing the chloramine and aerating for several hours or overnight will allow the water to "fall" back to its "real" pH.
 

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Don't bother with the vinegar. Its only going to confuse your pH results by artificially reducing your pH. What you are trying to do is cure the portland cement that you used. The vinegar is not going to help in this regard. What is going to help is a cool damp Co2 environment. What this does is it gets the Co2 into the the pores of the cement so it can react with the free lime. The free lime is the calcium hydroxide that is released upon hydration of the tri-calcium silicate and the dicalcium silicate that makes up around 75% of the average portland cement clinker. You want to accelerate the formation of calcium carbonate by increasing the Co2 coming in contact with the free lime deep in the cement. Turns out the best way for this to happen is at a slightly damp and cool environment. So inside the house (~73F) and slightly damp. 50-70% relative humidity does the best. Increasing the Co2 concentration by adding dry ice to the tank (unplanted and uninhabited of course) will help create an environment that will help to increase the carbonation reaction.

I've been researching/experimenting with this for a while now and the carbonation by Co2 really helps to reduce the pH, but its still not a substitute for a quality low alkalinity cement designed for the aquarium/vivarium community. Of which does not exist. I'm working on fixing that and have gotten pretty close. Average portland cement = pH of 13. My current (not finished) formulation= pH of 8.6. Working to get to an 8.0 for the saltwater community and a 7.5 or lower for the viv community. But this is lots of experimentation and testing away still.

So basically, put plastic wrap over your tank. Drop some small pieces of dry ice into a cup of water and put it into the tank and let it sit for a week. Then wash it down with a hose. This will do much better than the vinegar which will attack the formed cement and etch away at it revealing more free lime and weakening the cement.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
That was some pretty intense info, way more than i asked for lol THANKS! Ill be looking for some dry ice, im not sure where to find that though.
 

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Ok I have a question. Since its the water that's really a concern when it comes to ph, how about CO2 injection as with planted aquariums? Also organic materials such as plant matter lowers the ph also so could these also be helpful?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I put half a pound of dry ice in there today and sealed it... so we shall see if the concrete affects the Ph tomorrow....
 

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If the CO2 doesn't work (note Vivworks said a week), I've used repeated dilute muriatic acid washes to reduce the pH from concrete rockwork in numerous LARGE public aquarium exhibits. Over time, it works beautifully. But it will definitely require monitoring to get to a point I'd trust it for frogs.

Good luck!
Rich
 

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I'd leave it at least a week. One day will not be sufficient. The thing to remember with cement is that it takes TIME to cure it.

People go with cement over epoxy because they hope to save some money on the build, but the trade-off is time. You won't get anywhere, even with C02 curing, for at least a week. If you do see a pH drop after 1 day its because you are reading the carbonic acid that the Co2 has formed in the pore water. Which is what you want, but you'll need to let it have enough time to move its way into the cement and react with the free lime. Also dicalcium silicate (20+% of portland cement) takes a much longer time to hydrate than the tri-calcium silicate so you are looking at it potentially leaching out lime again even after you first cure it.

Hopefully though the C02 will form in the pores the CaCO3 and reduce the permeability of the cement and thereby sealing in any further formed free lime. That's the quick way of dealing with the issue, to reduce the permeability by sealing it, but this has to be done with a waterproof material (not resistant) and this is typically an epoxy, but then you are back to why not using epoxy in the first place, and the issue with your design looking shiny.
 
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