Q: On preparing my water for a water change I added the correct amount for lake Malawi cichlids, but found my pH to be 8.6. I keep my tank at 8.0 – 8.2 and the recommended pH for Malawi cichlids is 7.5 – 8.4. I would consider 8.6 to be at the higher end of the scale as this reading was taken before adding Malawi/Victoria Buffer™.What have I done wrong?
A:The directions are designed for use with DI or RO water. If you are using untreated water as your source water, this will, depending on how hard the water is, influence the final parameters. When both Cichlid Lake Salt™and Malawi/Victoria Buffer™are used as directed in relatively pure water, the water parameters will approach very closely the parameters of the native lakes. If other sources of minerals are present, such as untreated source water or a dissolving substrate (e.g. aragonite), then the conditions of the lakes will not be duplicated as closely, since there is/are unpredictable variable/s. While a pH of 8.6 is a bit higher than targeted by these products, I expect the pH will likely settle down to something closer to 8.2 – 8.3, even if other sources of minerals are present.
Q: Is there anything I can purchase to help me monitor the Cichlid Salt content in my tank? I know to use a hydrometer when checking the specific gravity in my reef tank (add fresh or more salt to maintain the level) but I believe I can't use the hydrometer in this case? Any suggestions?
A: Conventional hydrometers are skewed to measure salinity in sea water. Sea water is denser than the African rift lakes that you speak of. It may not be an accurate measure for the fact if you use other companies "rift lake salt" products, these products may be heavily influenced by sodium chloride. This heavy influence of sodium chloride will not replicate the lakes environment.Our Cichlid Lake Salt has a relatively low chloride content, unlike other products, which is more conducive to replicating the natural environment of the rift lakes. Instead of using a hydrometer to measure total dissolved salts, I would be more concerned with GH (general hardness which is more specifically measured as calcium and magnesium), especially if using our Cichlid Lake Salt. GH test kits are inexpensive and can be found at most aquarium stores.
Q: I have been using your products since I setup my first cichlid tank and they seem to work very well. I am, however, having one small problem. My GH is slowly going down. My question is - how can I keep the GH at about 15-16? Should I be adding more Cichlid Lake salt or Malawi Buffer or something else?
A: Our Cichlid Lake Salt is a blend of mineral salts designed to help replicate the mineral conditions of the lakes in east Africa from where these cichlids are native. This product will impact/build GH (general or mineral hardness) where needed. Once this product is used to create a GH value, the minerals are generally not consumed as fast as they can be replenished using this product with regular partial water exchanges. If your GH value has dropped from 16º to 10º in a matter of a few weeks as you have stated, there are a couple of possible explanations for this occurrence. 1) These minerals are actually getting consumed by the vertebrate and invertebrate life in your aquarium (fish, plants, etc.) at phenomenal rate, or 2) These minerals are being precipitated out of solution. This is possible if there is excessive phosphate or an excessive KH value present in the aquarium, possibly through use of phosphate based products, phosphate that may exist in the well water, or if your well water has an existing KH value (I am assuming this is not the case given that your well water has a pH of 6.5). This is a more likely explanation. To replenish these minerals, you can use Cichlid Lake Salt as needed to build GH. I would also discontinue use of any phosphate based products and use a phosphate remover like our PhosGuard to cut down any phosphate that may be in your source water. An excessive KH (carbonate hardness) value will also precipitate some of these minerals out of solution similar to excessive phosphate being present in your system and precipitating out certain minerals. If this is the case, you can perform partial water exchanges to dilute your existing KH value.