In terms of pH level, the ideal level you want is around 6-7. Around this level, the acidity of the water is comfortable for aquaponic aquatic life. The temperature of the water will influence the pH levels. Cultivating too many fish will increase pH levels; this is why you need an affordable pH tester.
Majority of store-bought pH testers will not show an influx or decreased reading during a change of temperature due to seasonality.
When researching what the best pH level for my fish is not a one answer fits all. Different species of fish will desire a different pH level.
Fish Friendly Ways to Lower pH
You can correct your pH level in aquaponic a few ways. I always prefer organic compounds over industrial mixes.
Peet moss can surely help lower pH reading. Peet Moss is an organic way to lower pH. It CAN be suitable to drink.
One can experiment with lemons. I never tried it but supposedly is reliable. Lemon Juice acidity is about 5 or 6. Unfortunately, this is lower than what fish desire, so be careful.
I do not recommend using coke, red wine, or milk to lower pH. Even though they can provide a low pH content, they are not desirable living conditions for your fish.
Another way to lower pH level is by executing a water change. Removing 30 percent of your water can have a significant impact on our aquaponic system. Doing this will not only eliminate harmful nutrients; it will remove the proper nutrients your fish and plants need to grow.
Be careful not to remove more than 30 percent of the water at a time. Also, you should never change the water out too often. Allowing your system time to build the right nutrients will provide a healthy system.
Also, one can try to add more grow beds. Some plants can help neutralize the adicity of water.
In recent years Swedish and Norway scientist have been working on a solution to help acidic lakes. In theory, the scientist is experimenting by oxygenating the bottom of the lakes. By doing this think of a bottle of soda. When you first open the bottle bubbles will rise.
Well, they are attempting to do this on a much larger scale. The scientist mission is to oxygenate enough water so it can cycle every couple of days. Bubbles help oxygenate the water also it helps move the water, preventing it from becoming stale.
How can pH Affect Fish
The best pH level for fish is anywhere from 6 to 9, depending on what species of fish you are cultivating.
Many things can go wrong in an aquaponic system externally if you are a new farmer. In many cases, pH can cause an aquaponic apocalypse! Either dropping too low or going to high will bring your system to its knees.
When pH drops below six things, start to go wrong. If you had a pH reading of 5 and under at this point, any egg or baby fish would die if they haven’t already.
If the pH level drops, this means your water is more acidic. More acidic water will start to burn fish skin, almost like a sunburn but much worse.
Typically salt water is not used in aquaponics. If you do have a saltwater fish tank, be careful to monitor your level daily. Even the slightest change in reading can devastate your corals.
Depending on the fish, most fish enjoy a pH level of 6 to 7. African Cichlids like much higher pH levels, some species desire levels around 8.5 that’s 1.5 higher than human blood.
Recent studies of Brook Trout had the adaptability to sustain much higher pH levels than recently believed. In a few case studies trout have been found living in pH levels of around 9.5.
Unfortunately, any fish living in an aquaponic with these kinds of water conditions will not live long. In the wild pH conditions probably changed over generations of fish. I’m getting each generation a little stronger than the last.
Mature fish will be more resilient then baby fish.
If you are newer to aquaponics, learning to balance your aquaponic system is an art. It is easily countered all it takes is for you to stay on top of it and monitor the conditions.
New to Aquaponics How to Balance pH in my Fish Tank.
Adding Limestone or some other rocks to any aqua cultivation will increase pH.
Before adding any habitats to your system, I would test your local water supply. It is not uncommon for some areas to have a pH level way beyond the comfort range for fish.
Many off-grid homes will have a problem with water conditions. If you live in an area with limestone or if you are collecting water from a well, this might mean you will have to treat your water before adding it to your system.
Adding more plants can help balance water for more sustainable living conditions.
I have known a couple of farms using baking soda or vinegar; I would not attempt this method. Adding too much of these ingredients will only cause more damage.
I can only recommend two different ways.
Best way to lower your pH level will be by executing a water change. Please remember, to do a proper water change you only withdraw 30 percent of the water.
If you take out more than 30 percent, you can kill your fish. If you take out less then thirty percent, then you might not have the significant impact you were expecting.
Please check out our article on; How to Properly do a Water Change Without Harming my Aquaponic System.
The second way to help balance pH for your Aquaponic System
If you have already tried a water change and the level is not dropping you can add these tablets to help neutralize the water before mixing it into your system.
If you put the tablets in the water, your fish might think its dinner time, or you might add too many tablets making your water very acidic.
I strongly recommend removing 30 percent of your water at a time. In another container, let your new water neutralize for 24 hrs after adding the tablets. Waiting is critical! It will give enough time for the tablets to execute their job sufficiently.
After 24 hours to be safe, you can test the water before mixing it into your system.
You can always buy manual testing kits. This is an affordable method, even though it takes more time than the digital versions. Many DIY tester kits will give false readings.
Two Cost-Efficient Ways to Test pH levels in Aquaponics
I recommend sticking with digital readers it might cost little more money, but long term it will pay off financially.
Years ago, when I first started with aquaponics, I started my system on a strict budget! For the first year, I used a regular manual pH tester.
When my system started to produce groceries for my family, I choose to invest in a cheaper pH tester check which one I bought here.
If you choose to buy tester kits, you have to remember to test the water on a minimum of once every other week. If you are just now starting out testing two times a week is a good practice, from there you can work your way down to once every biweekly.
Here is my favorite pH tester that I’ve bought My 6-in-1 Digital Tester.
I can’t express the importance of checking your pH level for aquaponics. It is not only fish that are affected by pH level for plants.
I’ve had mine for a couple of years and never had any issues. It is affordable. I do not have to do anything to get my readings. Every morning I wake up brew me some coffee and head outside to feed the fish and check my readings.
Since my tester is digital, I get my readings any time without moving a finger. After you receive your inspector installing it is super easy, follow the directions you can’t go wrong!
My tester provides me with three readings of pH level, ppm oxygen levels, and temperature.
Every once and a while, I pull my tester out of the water to clean it. I found out the hard way, not keeping it cleaned will produce falsified readings.
If you have more questions about Which pH Tester is Right for your Project.
pH Reading for our Household Chemicals
pH levels are scaled 0 to 14. Anything about seven will start to hurt most aquatic life. At 14 is called Base, this is where acidity is poisoning to even human life.
To get a high pH level, you must consider chemicals. With most household chemicals pH levels are nine plus, for example:
Chemicals & their pH properties
- Liquid Drain Cleaner 14 pH
- Bleach 13
- Oven Cleaners 12
- Borax 10 pH
- Tub & Tile Cleaner 10
- Lysol 9
- Ammonia 9
- Baking Soda 8
- Oceans 8
- Dish Soap 8
- Blood 7
- Toilet Cleaner 6
- Vinegar 3
- Lemons 3
Alkaline products are better at cleaning grease, oils, dirt, and other organic items. While Acid Product is better for removing calcium and rust.
Lemons have a lower pH level due to its a citrus fruit. Its pH level does not calculate the strength or performance.
Many chemicals contain a high pH; this is why it is better to keep chemicals out of aquaponics.
High Base reading (reading around 14) will devastate your aquaponic system — anything over seven pH I strongly recommending in correcting this immediately.