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Results 1 to 7 of 7
  1. #1

    Default Oak Galls to Soften Aquarium Water?

    0 Not allowed!
    Hello everyone,

    This is my first post here. While I have two aquaria - one large one for two goldfish and a large, quasi wabi-sabi (or nature style, if you prefer) tropical community one - I am starting a 60 L dwarf South American cichlid tank. Everything is already set up save the fish... and the pH. The plants (specifically, dwarf anubias, marble queen swords and Java ferns) are doing fine, I got and boiled some African drifwood and some neutral pH rocks and the gravel is also basically pH-neutral.

    The pH is the only issue that I need to resolve before I feel comftorble putting in any fish. I lack a distiller (though I plan on making a DIY stovetop one ASAP) and, as I live in an area where my tap water is pretty hard, I really have not seen any progress in synthetic (pH down) nor natural (boiled California live oak leaves and the byproduct, the "tea"). I have just today put some peat in my filter, however, yet this has yet to make any noticable change (as of yet...).

    So, remembering the old iron gall inks once popular in Europe, I came to realize that perhaps using the gall of the oak would be more efficient and/or effective, while also harming the tree less (if at all).

    Given that I live in an area rich with California live oak trees and public parks within walking distance, I was wondering if this would be safe, after boiling and washing of course?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

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    0 Not allowed!
    This was a new one for me, I had to check into what oak galls actually are. Having done that, I would not think it would do much for the pH. I can't say if it might also be toxic in water.

    But first, it is a misconception that pH is all-important; it is actually the GH (general hardness) that more directly affects fish, though this is not to say that pH is not important too. The two are related. The level of KH (carbonate hardness or Akalinity) is also important, since this acts as a buffer, to prevent fluctuating pH, which is probably why you are not seeing any results using whatever method.

    First thing is to find out the GH and KH (and pH) of your tap water. The GH and KH you can probably ascertain from the water supply folks, perhaps on their website. No need to buy a testing kit at this stage, unless of course you decide to adjust these (to get the pH down too). Without reducing GH and KH, the pH is not going to lower much.

    Once you know the numbers, you can decide what if anything needs to be done. If you do want softer and slightly acidic water, the only safe method is to dilute the tap water with "pure" water. Peat, wood, dried leaves will release tannins and this does soften the water and lower pH, but only in proportion to the amount of peat, etc and the initial GH and KH. With a high GH and KH, it will take incredible amounts of peat; and it gives out fast, the higher the GH/KH the faster the peat will become exhausted and need replacing. And this means continually fluctuating GH, KH and pH. Mixing pure water in is permanent and more reliable.

    Soft water fish, such as almost all of the South American dwarf cichlids, develop internal problems from hard water; calcium blocks the kidneys over time, and this will kill the fish. So addressing the GH is the way to do it, as the pH will follow.

    And, welcome to AC forum.

    Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

  3. #3


    0 Not allowed!
    Point taken about water hardness. I am

    I collected the oak galls from a wilderness area near my suburban home; they are quite pure, and so I decided to try my idea out - on a smaller, safer scale. I boiled them in some water and - on an small plant graft (a part of one of the swordtails) in a jar as a test - I was pleasantly shocked that the resulting solution worked marvelously to lower the pH, eventually to 6.7 (not sure about the GH, though).

    I already plan to find a way to get purified water ASAP, too, certainly before my first fish comes home.

    Thanks Byron!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    methuen ma usa

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    0 Not allowed!
    You are saying your ph is a big problem.... What kind of readings are we talking about? Are your tanks cycled? Getting the kh and gh is also a good idea. You might be on well water if its really so high, in which case youll need to get a tester your self.

    I for one am a fan of stocking to your water conditions. Like i have abandoned the hope of owning snails because my water is too soft. I will also not likely stock live bearers tho they wouldnt be too uncomfortable in my water... If you have well water why not look into african cichlids?
    I wonder if i plant one of my tiger barbs would the demon seed grow to a full tree?
    gotta love them bunnies!
    I.R.S.: We've got what it takes to take what you've got!

  5. #5


    0 Not allowed!
    If you're serious about dwarf cichlids sooner or later you will want an RO unit.

  6. #6


    0 Not allowed!

    I know it has been a while, but I would like to update myself, if I may: My Flag Acaras spawned sucessfully (I took out the male, and I sold him back to the store long ago) and as of now I have over a dozen half-centimetre-long baby or juvenile fish - I am not certain if they are juvenile, and Bing Image Search is not of much help. Now, using the method I described before, my tank is doing excellently: All the plants are doing superb and the fish are active. Yet, I was wondering, what should I do with all these fish? I don't know how many I can keep in my larger (300 litre) tropical community aquarium, as the water quality is so radically different in there, as well as the fact that there are several large Irian Red Rainbowfish, so I would be hesitant to put anything new in there until I do more research.

    And I do agree I need a reverse osmosis distiller, but until then I will continue to just purchase distilled water from my local aquarium store.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    A little further from sanity

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    0 Not allowed!
    There are a few things you can do. Take them to the lfs, put them on craigslist, or find a local aquarium club and maybe some of the members would take them off your hands.
    When I go fishing I just throw sharp rocks in the water and wait for the dead fish to float to the top... Kingfisher
    Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason is you are stupid and make bad decisions.

    I think my fish is adjusting well to the four gallon, He's laying on his side attempting to go to sleep on the bottom of the gravel.
    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
    Dear naps, sorry I hated you so much when I was a child... Love me

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