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Best Water pH for African Cichlids

First off, we can put African Cichlids into three different categories based on where they come from. They come from three main lakes which include Lake Malawi, Victoria and Tanganyika. We can tell you right away that the ideal pH for Malawi cichlids is between 7.5 and 8.

For species that live in Lake Victoria and Tanganyika, however, it is 8.5-9.5 pH. While a 7.0 pH is neutral, a pH below that is more acidic while it is alkaline above it. Therefore, we can conclude that African Cichlids prefer water that is a bit more alkaline.

Setting the right pH might not seem like that important but in fact it plays a huge role when it comes to the well-being of your African cichlid. A good pH value will help your fish better regulate chemical reactions that happen in their organism.

Can Low pH Level Kill African Cichlids?

A good pH level can literally help your African Cichlid survive. It is much harder for them to stay healthy and thrive if the pH is not ideal in the tank. If you don’t want to spend on making the acidity better, then you are inevitably going to pay more in the future because your cichlids will get sick.

Moreover, it also causes African cichlids a lot of stress when the water conditions are not right. Stress not only makes them more aggressive but also makes them vulnerable to diseases. If the pH level is too high, then it makes the ammonia in the water more toxic which is also rather unhealthy for your fish.

How to Increase Water pH Level?

One of the easiest ways to increase water pH level is to put some buffer in the water. You can buy buffers in powder form in just about any pet shop that sells fish. Read the instructions before you use it and then pour the amount written there into the water.

It is best to mix water with buffer in a separate bucket and pour it later into the aquarium. The problem with pouring the entire buffer into the tank right away is that it would significantly raise the pH immediately. This can be shocking for your fish so it is better to do it gradually.

You also need a good filter for this because if the ammonia is not filtered out properly, the pH raise will make it more toxic. There is also a particular type of decoration you can buy which is called calcareous décor. Types of sand such as coral or aragonite or gravel such as coral and limestone are perfect alternatives.

These are buffer decorations that will not only make your tank look awesome but also increase water pH. Besides substrate, you can buy dry reef, tufa, Ocean or limestone rocks for the same purpose.

How to Measure Water pH Level?

You can measure the acidity of any liquid with a pH test strip. Or you can just buy a digital pH meter and your job will be even easier. A test strip is basically litmus paper that reacts to the liquid by changing its color, precisely indicating the acidity of the liquid.

There are different types of tests. One type allows you to measure only the acidity. The other type measures how alkaline the water is, while the third type measures both. The scale from acidic to alkaline is usually 0 to 6, 0 being the acidic extreme and 6 being alkaline.

It is enough to put the test strip in the water for a couple of seconds. Then, take it out and wait another 10 seconds until it shows the results. If it’s blue, the water is alkaline and if it’s red, it is more acidic. The indicator scale can be found on the box the strip scales come in.

If you want your results to be more accurate, you can use a digital pH meter. These gadgets have an electrode which you can put in the water you want to measure the pH of. Keep the electrode in the water and push the button so that it starts measuring it.

With a calibrated digital pH meter, it takes approximately 2 minutes to get a precise result.

Is RO/DI Water Good for African Cichlids?

The problem with RO/DI water is that there are not enough minerals in it for your African cichlids to thrive on. If you want to stabilize your RO/DI water, you need to add some cichlid lake salt, some magnesium sulphate and baking soda to it.

African cichlids got used to having those important minerals out in nature so they can’t really live a healthy life without them. If you can’t find a way to replace those minerals, then you better avoid using RO/DI water.

The reason why many people think that using RO/DI water would be a good idea is that it is pure. However, this is exactly the problem with it. It’s just too pure, although RO/DI water can be a great base if you want to mix the perfect minerals into it for your precious African cichlids.

Wrap Up

Water pH is very important not only for African cichlids but for any fish species out there. You need to know the ideal pH range for your own fish and adjust the water conditions accordingly. Otherwise, the aquarium water can become toxic for them and they are going to be sick.

And again, the point is not to keep your pet fish in perfectly pure water. For example, RO/DI water is very pure indeed but it does not contain the minerals that African cichlids thrive on. If you want to use that type of water anyway, then make sure to get those minerals and mix them together in the water.

Measuring the water pH from time to time is good practice because the healthier your fish are, the longer they are going to live. Keeping the water pH in the recommended range is going to minimize ammonia and ammonium as well, both of which are toxic to your fish.

avatar I’m Julia, and I used to work in a fish store for over 5 years. On this blog I help beginners care for their cichlids and share my experience and research on various fishkeeping related topics.

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