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Practical advise needed on setting up a low-pH species tank

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I am interested in trying my hand at keeping some fish that require low-pH, soft-water environments (ie. Betta persephone, and some killie species). I (think I) understand the science behind it, but I am hitting a wall on the practical application of that. I read about setting up peat filtration, boiled oak leaves, etc. Frankly, I am stuck on how to begin and maintain the environment. Also, can this be done in a low-tech, "Walstad" fashion (ie. soil substrate, sunlight, etc)?

First of all, what exactly is peat filtration? Is this as simple as putting peat in the substrate, or using peat instead of soil? Is this what I would call generic peat moss found at garden centers, or sphagnum(?) peat moss? (Are there other types?) If not in the substrate, would peat in a filter bag in a filter, or sitting in the corner of the tank work?

Secondly, what about the use of oak or almond leaves which I see mentioned on different web sites? They will frequently mention them being boiled. Are these fresh, tree-picked leaves? Dry, dead leaves? If boiled, for how long (don't they just disintegrate)? I've never boiled leaves, so I'm not sure what is involved. How long do these boiled leaves last in such an environment? Does it get messy?

What about plants, then? I would assume things like Java Moss and Java Fern would work, as they seem so hardy as to work in just about any environment. What about other types of plants? Any crypts?

As you can see, I find lots of data to work from, but I cannot find any documentation on how to implement the suggestions. Hence my verbose confusion above! :)

Thanks for any assistance.

Oh, one other thing. My tap water, the starting point, is always pH 7.0 and a GH/KH of ~1dH.
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I use r/o water in one of my tanks and grow crypts and anubias in it fairly well. I too am curious about peat filtering.
Some have said to me that it is not the pH so much that effects the fish as GH. Now I am more confused! :)

Seriously, all the information says that Fish A needs, say, pH 5.5-6.5 and GH of 10. But then again apparently most, if not all, fish will apparently adapt to my city's tap water (pH 7.0, GH/KH ~1dH). So... Why do they need pH 5.5-6.5 if they will live fine in pH 7.0?

Yet another person said that if the fish breed in the "wrong water" (wrong GH or pH) then the offspring can be malformed, or something....

A bit more confused now than before...
Re: Practical advise needed on setting up a low-pH species t

I don't know about killies, but for wine bettas (persephone, coccina etc), they are found NOT in blackwater or clearwater streams (both have plants), but in very shallow, fairly stagnant, leaf-littered, somewhat brown/muddy pools usually close to the blackwater streams..... under deep shade and amidst heavy brush/bush. No plants, not even algae, to speak off..... but I have kept coccina (died when jumped) in normal planted tanks before, and they did wonderfully, with vibrant colours and competing well even with rasboras. I think if your tank is generally healthy and the fish are compatible, peat filtration isn't vital. As long as the pH is below 7, it should be fine.
A non CO2 tank will have daily fluxes in the pH.
If you think the pH is stable in those tanks and can be maintained as such, you are in for a rude awaking.

Some planted shallow pools go from 6 to 9 daily in natural systems. I have caught native killis here in these same places, and I see no reason why elsewhere would any different in terms of the environment. Both are tropical, both have plants, both have soft water etc.

Will the fish do well in a non CO2 tank? Yes.
Since you are not doing water changes and you should add a bi cab user like Egeria, the softness will not matter. The plants will export out the KH/GH.

Tom Barr
I think this all depends on your application. Are you trying to breed or just create a nice show tank with the bettas and whatnot? Most of the Betta breeders I know use RO.

Peat filtration usually involves the addition of a small quantity of peat moss to your filter media. Garden stores usually carry it. It will lower your pH, but the degree to which it will do so is hard to say. I would be very careful adding acids as found in peat to your water, since it has less than a degree each of KH and GH. That is not a very strong buffer.

I would try the fish in your water "as-is". Your water seems about perfect for most softwater fish. I don't think pH plays much of a role with them...I think a low pH is an assumed requirement for softwater fish because soft water is usually acidic. Either way, try it.
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